The pons is a small but vital brain structure that houses bunches of nerve fibers. These fibers connect both the cerebrum and the cerebellum as well as the right and left hemispheres of the brain. They make it possible for these structures to send messages — including sensory and motor information — back and forth. Without the pons, it would be impossible to move or communicate. People with locked in syndrome may have experienced an injury to this vital structure.
The Pons Serves as a Communication Center for the Brain
The main function of the pons in your brainis serving as a relay center for many important messages that must go between different areas of the brain. It aids in many vital functions of the brain by transmitting signals between the forebrain and the cerebellum. If the pons was not functioning properly, these messages might not go through, and these functions could not be carried out.
The same is true of sensory information passing between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. These messages use the nerve fibers in the pons as a conduit, making the structure a key part of sensory function as well.
The Pons Plays a Key Role in Regulating Breathing
The pons also contains a bundle of nerve cells known as the pneumotaxic center that is integral to the autonomic regulation of breathing. This includes how much air you breathe in and how soon you take another breath. It is up to the pons to ensure you get enough oxygen no matter your activity level.
The Pons Controls Some Aspects of Sleep/Wake Cycles
Some aspects of regulating sleep/wake cycles occur in the pons, particularly deep sleep. Deep sleep is when dreaming is most likely to happen and is essential for getting the rest you need to function at optimum levels. Some people with injuries to the pons may require medication to regulate their sleep/wake cycles.
The Pons Is Vital to Experiencing Some Sensory Input
The pons allows for the right and left hemispheres of the brain to exchange information about the senses, including sensory input and function. This includes hearing and taste, as well as balance. Because of this, an injury to the pons may impact both sensory function and movement.
Injuries to the Pons Can Disrupt Any or All of Its Functions
Strokes that affect the pons, called pontine strokes, are the most common way injuries occur that affect the pons. Other ways a person can suffer injuries to this area include:
- Brain tumors
- Brain hemorrhage
- Traumatic brain injuries
No matter how they occur, injuries to the pons can be either complete or incomplete. An incomplete injury can cause impairments related to:
- Motor function
- Sensory function
- Sleep/wake cycles
The severity of these impairments and the prognosis of the patient depends greatly on the individual injury. When the injury to the pons is complete, the patient may pass away.
If a patient with a complete injury survives, he or she could develop locked in syndrome. In this syndrome, the person has no sensory or motor function, except for the ability to move their eyes up and down. Some people can also blink. However, the higher functioning of their brain continues, so he or she is cognitively intact and aware of their surroundings.
Full Recovery from an Injury to the Pons Is Not Common
It is unlikely that someone with a complete injury to the pons will recover any meaningful movement or sensory function. Treatment will focus on preventing secondary infections and illnesses and improving quality of life. Thanks to special communication devices and other tools, a relatively high quality of life may be possible despite being “locked in.”
Some recovery may be possible, however, for those with incomplete injuries. This requires intensive rehabilitation and therapy. In rare cases, he or she may recover enough to operate a motorized wheelchair, walk, or even live independently. Even when recovery is significant, he or she may still struggle with maintaining their sleep/wake cycle and other impairments.
You May Be Able to Pursue Compensation After an Injury to the Pons
If you or a loved one suffers an injury that disrupts the functions of the pons, you could face mounting medical bills, lost wages, and diminished earning capacity, in addition to your pain and suffering and mental anguish. In some cases, you may be eligible to pursue a payout to help you cover these expenses and losses.
Newsome Meltonmay be able to pursue damages for you and your family if you suffered a traumatic brain injury because of:
- A car accident
- Another type of personal injury accident
- Medical mistakes during surgery
- Delayed or missed diagnosis
- Other types of medical malpractice
Our team will review your case for free. Call us today at 1-866-611-BASC to get started. You may be able to recover the compensation you need